Monthly Archives: December 2014

Get Ready for the Geminid Meteor Shower

Want to watch possibly one of the best meteor showers of the year?  Then look up in the sky on the evening of Saturday, December 13th, or early the next morning to catch one of the most reliable meteor showers we have: the Geminid Meteor Shower.  Every year around this time of year the Earth crosses the orbit of the odd asteroid 3200 Phaethon and collides with debris that the asteroid has left behind in its wake.  To get the best possible viewing experience, follow these handy tips.

  1. Hope for good weather.  Can’t see meteors if you can’t see the sky.

  2. If you live in or nearby a city, travel far enough away so that your view isn’t obstructed by light pollution.  While some of the brightest meteors will be visible even in a big city, you’ll miss all of the smaller dimmer meteors that make the wait in between the big ones that much more amazing.

  3. Dress warm, if the meteor shower is as good as we hope, you might be outside longer than you think.

The best time to watch this particular meteor shower is conveniently just after sunset.  The constellation Gemini, which is the radiant or origin point of these meteors will just be rising in the eastern sky.  Luckily, the moon won’t rise until around midnight.  You won’t have to worry about the meteors getting outshone by the moon until that time.  So grab a warm beverage, a blanket, and a friend and head outside to see what we hope is the best meteor shower of 2014.

Orion Test Flight

NASA’s Orion Spacecraft is about the engage in its very first unmanned test flight.  A successful test flight for Orion is a big deal for the future of human space exploration.  That’s why we’re paying very close attention to this event.  Here’s what you can expect to happen on Thursday, December 4th.

The scheduled launch time is 7:05 A.M. Eastern Time from Cape Canaveral Florida.  If weather can be a factor to launch fortunately there is a window of 2 hours and 39 minutes to still get the launch off or else it will be postponed to another day.  In the future, Orion will be launched by a different rocket system, but for this test flight it will be riding on a Delta IV Heavy Rocket.  After launch the whole test flight will take 4.5 hours as the spacecraft makes two orbits around the Earth before coming back to ground.

There are several systems that need to be tested during this launch.  First test is the separation or jettison of the protective coverings that keep Orion safe from the atmosphere during launch.  Once in space, these casings are no longer necessary and removing them will lighten the spacecraft.  After an initial orbit, the Upper Stage Rockets will boost the spacecraft into a very high orbit of about 3,600 miles.  The last stage of testing will be the reentry capsule.  NASA needs to see if the capsule can handle the intense temperatures and pressures that the spacecraft will experience on the return to Earth.  The parachutes will also need to deploy successfully to ensure a nice soft landing.  Let’s hope for the best!

If you are not fortunate enough to live close enough to Cape Canaveral to watch the liftoff in person you can watch coverage of the event on NASA TV or http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html# online.

For a look at the detailed sequence of events during the test flight, check out this article:  http://space.io9.com/heres-what-to-expect-during-the-first-orion-test-flight-1654607626/+AnnaleeNewitz

Soundtrack Info: “Running Fanfare” by Kevin MacLeod under the Creative Commons Attribution license. It can be found here: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Kevin_MacLeod/Classical_Sampler/Running_Fanfare

 

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